Saturday, January 07, 2012

Bump & Grind

Now that the kitchen range hood is nothing more than an unpleasant memory it is time to get back to the even more unpleasant task of dealing with the plaster in the parlor. There are no two ways about it, working with plaster, whether you are talking off or putting on, is a mess.

For those of you who are not long time readers of the blog, the plaster in this house was put on in unique fashion for the time. The walls on the entire inside of the house are sheathed with 1X8, T&G “plaster boards”. Plaster boards were milled locally in the Carson Mill at the turn of the century. The boards have dovetail grooves running the length of the boards, spaced 2-inches apart. As the plaster is pressed on to the walls, it fills the dovetail grooves, which is what keeps the plaster on the walls.

An 1893 article in The Humboldt Standard refers to them as “patent grooved lath” and says before the plaster goes on “it makes the walls look as if covered with matched and grooved flooring”. The article also claims that this method saves mortar and makes the home more sturdy and better insulated than traditional lath. While all of that may be true, this method also makes it a pain in the ass to remove the old plaster and get the walls ready for new plaster.

I only strip off the plaster that is failing so most of it comes off effortlessly. What remains though, is the plaster that was forced in to the grooves back in 1895. I must get that old plaster out of the grooves before the new plaster goes on and it does not come out willingly. In the past I used a Rotozip tool with a plaster bit to grind out the plaster. This really makes an incredible mess. As the burred plaster bit hits the plaster in the grooves it sends out a 3-foot rooster tail of ground plaster. Even working with the Rotozip in one hand and a shop-vac hose in the other, the room quickly becomes choked with dust. I must wear what amounts to a home-made haz-mat suit when doing this.

Well, after years of hard work, the Rotozip finally bit the dust – no pun intended. When I was working in the dining room using the Rotozip to remove the remaining hearth tile the front bearing started to make a little noise. By the time I was half way through the foyer and stair hall that little noise became a high pitched scream and now it was both the front and back bearings that were going. Towards the end of the foyer, just to get it to run I would have to flip the switch and the smack the housing with a hammer to get the bearings to move. Needless to say, the plastic housing did not like being smacked with a hammer and eventually I broke the on/off switch.

On Thursday I went to Sears to buy a new Rotozip, but came home with a Multitool. The Multitool comes with a number of different attachments, but the one I use is a flat blade with teeth on the end. The blade moves back and forth at high speed and does a pretty good job of breaking the plaster apart in the grooves. It doesn't remove it from the grooves quit as effectively as the Rotozip, but doesn't make nearly the mess as the Rotozip, either. What remains in the grooves gets shop-vaced out. Initially this process makes much less of a mess, but once the shop-vac comes on the dust starts to get thick. I now run the shop-vac just before I'm ready to finish up for the day, then close up the room for a few hours until the dust settles.

One down and six to go.


St. Blogwen said...

So the last photo isn't soft focus, just dust? ;-)

Love to see a picture of the new power tool!

Kate H.

Greg said...

Yes, that is dust in the last photo and that is about an hour after I stopped working. The dust gets kicked up by the exhaust of the vacuum. It is not that the particles get past the filter, it is the residual dust on the ground that gets blown in to the air by the exhaust. I may try to put an extension on exhaust outlet.

The new Mutlitool is the second to last photo. It is a very similar size and shape to the Rotozip.

Anonymous said...

strength to your srm.

rick said...

You gotta check out the ZipWall system. Pricey but worth it. I got them (12ft ones) a few months ago and they make dust/lead/asbestos control so much easier. Must have if you are living in a renovation.

Greg said...

I totally forgot all about those. I saw on another house blog a few years ago.